While in his academic life Simon Sommerville Laurie refrained from subscribing to any neo-Hegelian schools of thinking, his Gifford Lectures are nonetheless steeped in a Hegelian interpretation of history and spirituality. In his ‘dialectic’ view of humanity’s progression through the ages, Laurie argues that the ultimate goal of human life is to unite our spirits with God—that is, with the ‘Absolute’ or ‘Unconditioned One’. Yet, unlike some of his predecessors, Laurie does not focus his Gifford Lectures on the sinful or fallen nature of human life. Rather, he argues that God preordained all aspects of life. The evils inherent in it are also a part of Divine life. It is true that while life is at times brutal and evil, it is not in vain, he concludes. Life is a constant struggle, but a struggle with an ‘end’. Each struggle we overcome, each ‘evil’ we avoid, is a progression toward a greater knowledge of God and therefore a reunification with him. In the meantime, we can know God empirically through our perceptions of the natural world, which includes human nature. By better understanding our ethical motivations, for example, we can come to know that part of God that is resident within ourselves. Life is a hunt for the eternal in the world of the finite, and while the ‘eternal’ will never be fully clear to us during our lifetimes, the mystery of God gives us the hope to go on living.
- Simon Somerville Laurie